University at Buffalo students, alumni protest sports cuts with "sit-in" at president's office

Alumnus has threatened legal action for donations
Posted at 6:52 PM, May 08, 2017

University at Buffalo students held a “sit-in” outside President Satish Tripathi’s office Monday to protest the cuts to four UB sports teams

UB cut men’s soccer, women’s rowing, men’s swimming and diving, and men’s baseball last month without warning the 120 athletes and nine couches it will affect.

“They're really holding us hostage, because we came here, we signed a four-year agreement to swim, to get an education on a scholarship that we expected them to honor,” said freshman Joey Puglessi, who has had to scramble to find a new college where he can swim. 

“But now in reality, we have to either stay here, now do what we came here to do, lose the family that we formed or we can start over 100 percent, lose transfer credits, lose tens of thousands of dollars over the course of four years, which puts us in a very tough spot...and it's really not fair that they won't even communicate with us or give us any answers to the questions that we have,” Puglessi said. 

In addition, UB alumnus Richard Lydecker is threatening to sue the university over the decision to cut those teams – particularly UB swimming, to which he’s donated $15,000 since 2015.

Lydecker, a civil litigator, says he’s outraged UB solicited his pledge to give up to $50,000 to the men’s swim team but cut the program without warning. Lydecker wrote a letter to Tripathi asking for his money back, and for the school to reverse its decision to cut the teams and give alumni two years to raise funds. He also plans to sue UB on behalf of six swimmers, demanding UB pay all expenses for the students as they transfer to other universities to keep swimming.



“We just renovated our lounge, that was a $15,000 upgrade,” said UB swimmer Reid Zyniecki. “We got new blocks, that was in excess of $40,000. If we could have allocated that money to saving the program, we could be in a totally different spot right now.”

Senior swimmer Nicholas Hooper added, “Our alumni, there's some pretty powerful alumni who have a plan in place right now to try to endow the team and get the team back so it won't cost the university anything.”

In a written statement, UB officials said, “We understand how deeply disappointed our student-athletes and coaches are regarding the reduction in our athletic programs. This very difficult decision was made because of the unfortunate reality that we no longer have the resources to suppose 20 competitive Division I teams. We are diligently working to provide our student-athletes with the support they need during the transition.”

After the students sat outside Tripathi’s office for about an hour, the president agreed to meet with Zyniecki and Hooper. The students said Tripathi agreed to at least listen to the alumni group and they considered the conversation “a good step forward.”